Farmer ordered to pay £18,000 for death of contractor

A farmer has been ordered to pay £18,000 after a health and safety breach led to a contractor being electrocuted and dying on his land.

Matthew Drummond, a self-employed tipper wagon driver, had been in the process of unloading sand at Heaton Farm, near Rochdale, Greater Manchester, when the arm of his lorry-mounted crane touched overhead power lines.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found farmer David Heywood met Mr Drummond on 8 April 2016 and led him to the site where the sand was to be tipped.

See also: What you need to know: farm contracting 

Manchester Crown Court heard that though overhead power lines (OHPLs) carrying 6,600V ran across the site, the contractor was not alerted to their presence or to the risks.

When he raised the tipper wagon’s crane to tip the load onto the field, the bottom of the crane came into contact with the OHPLs and he was electrocuted.

Mr Heywood, 69, of Heaton Farm, Middleton, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

He was sentenced to a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £15,000 towards the HSE investigation and £3,000 towards prosecution costs.

Speaking after the hearing, Mike Sebastian, HSE principal inspector, said: “This tragic incident could easily have been prevented if the farmer had identified and managed the risks involved with overhead power lines on his land, and put a safe system of work in place.

“The dangers associated with OHPLs are well known and a wealth of advice and guidance is freely available from HSE and energy suppliers.

“HSE leaflet AIS8 Working Safely near Overhead Electricity Power Lines refers to a minimum safe distance of 10m horizontally on either side of any overhead lines and duty holders should work to that standard, or an equally safe one.”

Family tribute

At the time of Mr Drummond’s death, his family released this statement: “Matthew’s death has left us all devastated. Matthew was a hardworking man who loved to work outdoors.

“Matthew was always happy to be working with machines and we take some comfort from the fact that he died doing what he loved.

“Matthew was a loving dad to his children and a fantastic husband, son and brother.

“Matthew refused to grow up, he was always the joker and he loved life. We will all miss him forever.

“The family would like to thank everyone for their kind words and support and would now like some time to grieve privately and remember Matthew.”